With voices and instruments merging in an arresting tableau, DumbWise’s production of Faust was a visual and aural onslaught. Sparked into life by Alex Mugnaioni’s Mephistopheles, the seven-strong cast sang and cavorted their way from saints to sinners in a striking adaptation by director John Ward.
Faust is, to be honest, a bit of a loser. He’s useless with the ladies and regularly sticks his foot in it (typical boff) with the good-time lads. You can’t blame him for striking a deal with the Devil for immediate satisfaction – knowledge, power and a bit of skin in exchange for a lifetime chargrilled in Hell. And why is it that once you’ve sold your soul to the Devil, you meet the Christian girl of your dreams? Of all the churches in all the villages, Gretchen had to be singing in this one. Lloyd Gorman’s portrayal of Faust incites equal parts disgust and despair – you can’t help but feel the man brings it upon himself, but he does manage to rouse sympathy from the reserves.
The cast is magnificently talented, with the ability to blend into the background when needed, slipping into a range of characters with speed and ease. Instead of pretty, the voices in Faust were utilitarian, purposeful, creating large statements in their combinations. The characters seemed fluid within the dark, sparse set and the director blocked some haunting images made up of bodies and instruments. There were no spare parts or movements, everyone was useful – the Devil even takes up a trombone at one point.
The visual integrity of the piece doesn’t outperform the dialogue, which is clever and witty by turns. The original songs lent a carnivalesque feel ranging from playful to menacing, driving the action and standing in for more lengthy exposition. As pieces of Faust’s story are perpetuated countless times in the modern media, it’s great to see an adaptation that marries modern neo-folk sensibilities to the more classic literary aspects.
With the stifling heat in the venue I’m not sure how the actors survived moving about in costume. And to the brilliant minds who think Faust is appropriate for 6-year-olds, think again. It’s not. They get bored. Take them to the circus. I’m all for educating young minds, but not at the expense of ticket-paying adults. Highly recommended, just make sure you get a programme to use as a fan.